Jury Nullification In The Roger Clemens Case

After four years and two separate trials, Roger Clemens was acquitted by a jury in Washington, DC today of perjury charges stemming from his denial that he took steroids and/or human growth hormone during testimony in a 2008 Congressional hearing.

This was the denial in question, under questioning by Democrat Elijah Cummings (who just Friday made an absolute ass of himself by saying that Obama’s having been interrupted while announcing amnesty-by-fiat for younger illegal aliens by the Daily Caller’s Neil Munro was racism at work)…

Cummings, who quite often plays the race card as a surrogate for Obama in order to demonize those who disagree with the president’s policies, isn’t exactly an arbiter of credibility. But he issued a quote to Clemens the mainstream media picked up on and made famous…

“It’s hard to believe you. It’s hard to believe you, sir. You’re one of my heroes, but it’s hard to believe you.”

Maybe Clemens was a racist.

The fact is Clemens never should have testified in front of Congress. He was under the impression he could clear his name after Henry Waxman’s House Energy and Commerce committee, which obviously had nothing better to do than to stick their noses into whether baseball players might have taken steroids, decided to engage taxpayer money into witch-hunts. And that impression was grossly mistaken. Four years of his life has been spent with his very freedom in limbo.

It should have never come to that. When the first attempt to nail Clemens for perjury ended in a mistrial amid evidence of gross prosecutorial misconduct the ordeal should have been over.  But Clemens was the target of US Attorney Ronald Machen, who has become known of late for his having been named to lead part of an investigation into White House national security leaks despite the fact he was a donor and bundler for the 2008 Obama campaign, pressed forward with a completely unwinnable case when it was clear that Clemens isn’t a threat to the public peace – regardless of his use or non-use of performance enhancers.

Buzz Bissinger of the Daily Beast had it right a year ago when the first trial went up in smoke…

I have tried to figure out the reason why Clemens was even charged in the first place for supposedly lying under oath to Congress three years ago over the use of steroids and other performance-enhancers. If the tables were turned and members of Congress were subpoenaed to testify before a subcommittee made up of the public, every member of the House and Senate would be indicted for perjury on the basis of corrupt pandering for votes, or sneaking in special-interest legislation, or making decisions on the basis of campaign contributions, or the willingness to do anything to get reelected even if it means the kind of constipated gridlock we face now over the budget.

As for those who have testified before Congress, what about the top executives of the seven biggest tobacco companies, stating under oath in 1994 that nicotine was not addictive? Or the top executives of eight major banks who in 2009 took little responsibility for our economic ruin and also excused their sky-high compensation and private jets?

Yet none of them have been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.

And today, the jury delivered their verdict. Not even so much on Clemens, as it seems pretty clear that Clemens used steroids along with pretty much everybody else in Major League Baseball at the time.

That verdict was on the idiocy of using federal taxpayer dollars on a multi-year, multi-trial prosecution Machen set loose on the legal system in the wake of a colossally wasteful congressional inquest which produced a controversial back-and-forth between a lying baseball player and a lying congressman.

The jurors reviewed the facts and history of the case, decided Clemens had suffered enough, and swatted the government across the nose for wasting time and money in an effort to put an athlete in jail for lying about something most of his peers were doing at the same time he was doing it.

It was a proper verdict, and it was a good example of jury nullification.

Jury nullification is a constitutional doctrine which allows juries to acquit criminal defendants who are technically guilty, but who do not deserve punishment. It occurs in a trial when a jury reaches a verdict contrary to the judge’s instructions as to the law.

A jury verdict contrary to the letter of the law pertains only to the particular case before it. If a pattern of acquittals develops, however, in response to repeated attempts to prosecute a statutory offence, this can have the de facto effect of invalidating the statute. A pattern of jury nullification may indicate public opposition to an unwanted legislative enactment.

In the past, it was feared that a single judge or panel of government officials may be unduly influenced to follow established legal practice, even when that practice had drifted from its origins. In most modern Western legal systems, however, juries are often instructed to serve only as “finders of facts”, whose role it is to determine the veracity of the evidence presented, and the weight accorded to the evidence, to apply that evidence to the law and reach a verdict, but not to decide what the law is. Similarly, juries are routinely cautioned by courts and some attorneys to not allow sympathy for a party or other affected persons to compromise the fair and dispassionate evaluation of evidence during the guilt phase of a trial. These instructions are criticized by advocates of jury nullification. Some commonly cited historical examples of jury nullification involve the refusal of American colonial juries to convict a defendant under English law.

Congratulations to those jurors, and here’s hoping the Obama Justice Department spends its time actually enforcing the law rather than pursuing high-profile, headline-grabbing witch hunts of non-dangerous citizens with close connections to Obama’s predecessor.



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